Saturday, January 2, 2010

Summing up

Looking back on the past year and looking forward to the year ahead, I wonder how to express what I've learned or want to remember, and how I'd sum up such things in preparation for the coming year.

I wondered that as I read Psalm 117 near the end of 2009. Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm in the Bible. It's two verses. Seventeen words in Hebrew. Some psalmist long ago must have figured that those few words summed things up quite tidily. And I can't help but think that the few thoughts of this psalm are a helpful way for me to keep things in perspective too. After all, when a divinely-inspired psalmist only uses 17 words to express what God has put on his heart, you'd expect him to choose his themes carefully.

As I reflect on the year we've just been through and the year to come, I'm not sure how I'd be able to limit myself to 17 words if I were writing a psalm about it all. I expect I'd want to get into a little contrasting of my situations or struggles with how God fits into it all. Like, "Though I..., God is..." That's because I can sometimes think about myself a great deal more than about God.

But there's no room for that in Psalm 117. When the psalmist boils things down to 17 Hebrew words, his focus is on God. And most of what he says in reference to us as people is in the imperative: commands to praise God. He commands everyone -- "all nations" and "all peoples" -- to praise God. In fact, that was so important that he even felt the need to repeat it three times amidst his 17 words! That's telling if I'm trying to see what's important by what this economizing psalmist chose to focus on in this tiny psalm.

The rest of the psalm explains why God is worthy of praise: "For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever." It's encouraging to note that this is the only other way in which the few words of this psalm refer to us as people -- as the recipients of a faithful God's steadfast love. Encouraging yes, but that doesn't mean we're the focus of this psalm. We're simply the admirers and the worshipers of a wonderful God who has chosen to focus on us!

If that's what I choose to pin to my wall or stick on my fridge in 2010, I'll be doing well. Amidst health issues and work challenges, and amidst my own personal failings, Psalm 117 provides me with a needed reminder: Focus on God. He is worthy of praise -- His love for us is great and He is always faithful! That's an appropriate way to remember 2009, and a worthy focus for 2010. I want it to sum up how I choose to think and live as we embark upon this brand new year.

© 2010 by Ken Peters

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